• Event Summary Report
  • Jan 19, 2022

End of Life Electronics: Optimizing Critical and Strategic Metals Recovery Through Circular Economy Approaches

Across the world, there are mounting concerns that the current state of End-of-Life Electronics (EOLE) waste has enormous economic, environmental, and social costs, and at the same time represents significant potential for economic gains. In Canada, an estimated 150,000 tonnes of unwanted electronic devices are collected annually, up to half of which is ferrous and nonferrous metals. Furthermore, up to 69 elements from the periodic table can be found in electrical and electronic equipment, including precious metals and strategically important ‘critical minerals.’ Some of these minerals have few substitutes and their supply is at risk, so their recovery from EOLE streams should be a strategic concern in the North American market and elsewhere.

Developing an integrated, value-oriented circular economy strategy for EOLE is becoming an urgent priority globally, with large private and public sector players beginning to collaborate on a range of issues, including design and demand management, take-back programs, and the technology and business models needed for responsible recycling.

Clearly EOLE is a global issue, but there are unique challenges that must be addressed in Canada and North America to both deal with our domestic economies and waste streams, and to contribute to global solutions. Additionally, Canada possesses skills in technology, metals smelting, and refining that create a potential domestic competitive advantage while contributing to EOLE solutions internationally.

This WCEF Side Event built greater awareness of the opportunity to improve critical materials recovery from EOLE in North America and identified strategic priorities for action among private sector and public sector actors that are consistent with circular economy principles and practices.